Retailers struggle as city shops close

Retailers struggle as city shops close

Empty shops at Spencer Street Fashion Station.RETAIL in some areas of Melbourne’s central business district is collapsing, with more than a dozen empty stores at the retail fashion precinct attached to Southern Cross Station. The centre – formerly DFO and now Spencer Street Fashion Station – is littered with closed stores, including Country Road, Witchery, Pilgrim, Charcoal and Barkins.

At Docklands, some businesses are not paying rates to help keep them afloat.

Lord mayor Robert Doyle said he was concerned about the retail environment, particularly in Docklands.

”It’s tough, it’s really tough,” he said. ”Retail is tough enough in the city … here in Docklands, particularly down where the wheel [the Southern Star Observation Wheel, which is being rebuilt] is, where retailers were hoping that wheel would be a magnet, makes it really tough for them.”

There is still no opening date for the troubled wheel and, despite double shifts, there are doubts it will be open in time for the Christmas retail peak.

”We have retailers down here [Docklands] at the moment who are not paying rates and the reason for that is we can’t have one shop going dark and then a second and a third one and before you know it a whole area of shops,” Cr Doyle said.

”We are actually seeing slight rises in retail vacancies in the CBD as well – nothing to be alarmed about yet, but just a warning to us that we have to work doubly hard at state government, at city government level to make sure we encourage and help our retailers.”

Glenn Lampard from property consultant Savills said the Spencer Street fashion precinct had likely suffered because the centre’s ownership had been in limbo and no one was spending money promoting the centre. ”It’s to a point now there were so many vacancies it’s just depressing to walk around,” he said.

One store manager at the centre said she had seen no marketing for years.

”None of the store managers know what’s going on,” she said.

She said the Friday night shopping rush when the football was on was long gone.

Mr Lampard said business outside prime CBD retail locations would be under strain.

”Your prime retail in Melbourne’s CBD is rather a small area, it’s Bourke Street Mall, most of what’s in the block north and south of the Bourke Street Mall and areas in Collins Street, the Paris end,” he said.

”Any retail outside of that area at the moment would be under pressure,” he said.

Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief economist Steven Wojtkiw said they were getting reports of retailers struggling in the CBD.

He said financial uncertainty was causing a reluctance to spend and other consumers were making the most of the high dollar to hunt out bargains online from overseas.

”It is likely to remain tough for some time,” he said.

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